By Brianna Chu
Tacocita’s bright teal umbrellas and gorgeous succulent graffiti art brought an eye-catching new feature to the corner of Rosemead and Del Mar in East Pasadena when they opened early this October. The colorful aesthetic and playlist build a fun and playful hangout spot for a younger crowd, with picnic tables spread out on their patio comprising their main dining area.
Tacocita is the brainchild of the Bicos brothers, whom locals may recognize as the owners of Gus’s BBQ in South Pasadena and Magnolia House in Pasadena. The brothers are continuing to bring their ideal food concepts to life, and Tacocita is one of these: a quick-service, casual taco spot that lands somewhere in between a taco stand and a full restaurant.
While planning and researching menu items, the Tacocita team brought in Michael Brown, who studied under Rick Bayless, to consult. They pulled from his culinary experience with Mexican cuisine, along with some research “taco touring” around SoCal (road trip inspiration, anyone?), to bring as much authenticity as they could to Tacocita’s offerings. Often this has meant compromises, due to the restaurant’s small location; their pibil, for instance, can’t truly be roasted in a pit. However, while they lack the space for a proper pit, they still prepare their meat as accurately as they can, wrapping the pork in the traditional banana leaves and smoking it low and slow. Another notable touch: their staff hand-press Tacocita’s tortillas on site.
The Tacocita staff spent some time before their opening to get to know the menu, and began to gravitate towards some particularly favorite items: the carnitas, birria, elote, and wings. In these first few weeks since they’ve opened, they’ve also noticed a surprising crowd favorite: their vegetarian-friendly potato and mushroom chorizo tacos. And in the California heat, the refreshing pineapple mint agua fresca has been going, going, gone!
Following the recommendation, we had to try out those staff and customer favorites. Their beer-marinated carnitas were topped with their pickled taco truck veggies, bringing welcome and complementary acidity to the savory pork. The corn tortillas were solid enough to carry all the toppings and juices, and had great taste and texture. Definitely don’t forget to sprinkle some lime juice on the birria taco – the braised short rib was incredibly rich and warming, and that little bit of lime juice really brings it all together. Surprisingly, I think I liked their vegetarian taco the most! They flavor the mushrooms with traditional chorizo seasonings, and the mixture of soft savory mushrooms and crunchy potatoes, topped with charred jalapeño cream, melded together for a deliciously harmonious bite. The elote was a sweet and tangy snack that corn on the cob lovers must try. The corn was sweet, tender, and nicely charred, and the tangy chile lime crema and queso mix kept every bite delightfully cheesy and creamy. I’m very glad that they have wipes on hand for the wings, especially, though – the honeyed glaze really sticks to your hands! They’re served with a few strips of jicama, cucumber, and mango on the side. The wings were quite sweet, and the chicken was on the drier side, but the heat from the glaze left me with a pleasant tastebud buzz afterwards.
Enjoy some of the tasty fun in the sun every day from 11am to 10pm here:
203 S. Rosemead Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107